GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 17 Duke at No. 18 Pitt, 7:00 p.m.
Like it or not, this is the ACC that we’re working with now: Pitt hosting Duke in a pivotal league battle. The Panthers have yet to beat an NCAA tournament caliber team, and their poor scheduling has left a team that, by most metrics, is really, really good sitting at 18th in the country. The Blue Devils have apparently righted the ship, shaking off whatever was ailing them — and Jabari Parker — while cruising to four straight wins. That, alone, makes this game important.
But there’s more at stake here. On Saturday, Duke heads up to the Carrier Dome to take on Syracuse. Pitt will host Virginia, who has quietly improved to 6-1 in league play, that same day. The Orange already are all alone in first place in the ACC. A loss from Pitt would drop them two games off the pace. If Duke loses tonight, they’d be heading to the Dome to avoid falling four games behind the Orange.
Suffice to say, this is one of the most important weeks of ACC basketball this season.
THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 8 Oklahoma State at No. 23 Oklahoma, 9:00 p.m.
It’s been a decade since the Cowboys have won in Norman. Marcus Smart and company will look to change that, but Travis Ford’s all-american point guard will need to play much smarter than he did on Saturday, when his emotions got the best of him and almost cost Oklahoma State the win. The Sooners have won three in a row and can score with the best of them, but this is not a team known for their defense. What’s fun about this matchup is that both teams play small and spread the floor.
THE OTHER, OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 9 Villanova at Georgetown, 9:00 p.m.
Villanova bounced back from a drubbing they took at the hands of Creighton to knock off Marquette in Milwaukee on Saturday. Georgetown, on the other hand, is in a tailspin. Josh Smith is done for the year due to academic issues. They’ve lost four games in a row and currently sit at 3-5 in league play and 11-8 overall. They have chances — two games against Villanova, a visit from Creighton and a game on Saturday against Michigan State — to turn things around, but this is a two-man team that is overmatched by everyone in the paint.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:
1) You mean beyond that juicy goodness above?
2) A couple of interesting battles atop the MEAC tonight, as 5-1 Savannah State hosts 5-2 Norfolk State while 4-1 Morgan State squares off with 4-1 North Carolina Central.
3) There is some action in the SWAC as well, as Alcorn State squares off with Southern.